Armed police patrol Lewes Bonfire due to terror threat

Bonfire Night in Lewes: 'We are urging people to be alert not alarmed, these officers will be there to keep you safe'

Armed police are being drafted in to patrol Lewes bonfire celebrations this year due to the increased national terror threat.

Meanwhile local agencies have renewed their call to people living outside the town to ‘stay local’ rather than travelling to the event.

Concerns about over-crowding and public safety have led to parking suspensions, road closures and changes to the train services - a move which has sparked controversy amongst local people who have dubbed the plans ‘draconian’.

The restrictions mean Lewes will not be accessible from midday on Saturday, November 4, until the next morning. Cars parked on the A27 or in other restricted areas will be towed away.

The agency warns that most shops and pubs are closing early and there are no organised facilities or shelters on offer for people to safely wait until everything returns to normal.

Lewes Bonfire is run by the local Bonfire Societies, however due to the very large crowds expected, other organisations get involved in public safety planning.

The agency estimates that the last time trains ran unrestricted to Lewes on bonfire, 60,000 people were in the town – compared to its usual population of 17,000.

Most of them tried to squeeze into a small section of Lewes, putting huge pressure on these streets.Superintendent Ed De La Rue from Sussex Police, said: “The multi-agency group wants people to enjoy their bonfire celebrations and believes the best way to do this is to stay local.

“Lewes bonfire is for the people of Lewes as the town cannot cope with a huge influx of people.

“Difficult and pragmatic decisions have been made for the sake of public safety.

“For those residents of Lewes who are attending the celebrations, we will have armed officers on duty in the town due to the current national terrorism threat level, tragically underlined by the attacks in London and Manchester.

“We are urging people to be alert not alarmed, these officers will be there to keep you safe.”

Mark Matthews, Assistant Director of Safer Communities at East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said: “We know that Lewes can get very crowded and this raises problems with fire safety, particularly with torches being carried and people setting off fireworks where they shouldn’t.

“Working with other agencies, we make every effort to put measures in place to keep people safe and we ask that members of the public act responsibly by going to events in your own area.”

Chris Stamp from South East Coast Ambulance said 81 people suffered firework injuries at the event last year.

He added: “The processions pass through very crowded streets and raise the risk of injuries. In previous years there has been a problem with ‘rookies’ – rook scarers - causing serious eye injuries and we are keen to promote the use of eye protectors.”

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